Thursday, May 19, 2005

Separation

Today, my friend PUG and I were discussing the extent to which religion separates its adherents from those of other religions. PUG mentioned the possibility that a religion by nature separates its believers from others, since its practicies are socially distinctive from other religions (am I quoting you right, PUG?). PUG mentioned the example of Kashrut, the laws of which practically speaking are a major social barrier between us and non-Jews. (In fact, Kashrut ends up being a social barrier between Jews. For example, the issue of would A eat in B's house if B isn't observant of many of A's stringencies.) We discussed whether this effect is the goal of Kashrut in any way.
This discussion is relevant to today's daf, 17b, which touches on our sages' prohibitions on the oil, bread, wine, and cooking of non-Jews. The Gemara states clearly that the intent of these decrees was to separate us from the gentiles. While I'd like to think that our rituals in general have no such intent, I'd like to leave this question open.
As a side question, PUG also mentioned the possibility that even if separation is not the primary intention of a religion, maybe it should not really matter, as that oftentimes ends up as its effect anyway. I personally think that intent still matters at the end of the day, but I'd like to hear anyone's thoughts.
Shabbat Shalom

27 Comments:

At Sunday, 22 May, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rashi, commenting on Levitcus 19:2, understands holiness precisely as a setting apart or separation: "'You shall be holy.' Separate yourselves from sexual immorality and from sin, for wherever one finds a barrier against sexual immorality, one finds holiness, [for example:],' [They (the kohanim) shall not take in marriage] a woman who is a prostitute or one who was profaned... I, the Lord, Who sanctifies you [am holy]' (Lev. 21:78); and, 'he shall not profane his offspring…I am the Lord, Who sanctifies him' (Lev. 21:15); and, 'They shall be holy…[They shall not take in marriage] a woman who is a prostitute or one who was profaned (Lev. 21:67). - [Vayikra Rabbah 24:46; and see also Sefer Hazikkaron]."
The derivation of kadosh, "holy," from parush, separate is commonplace -- where do you think the Pharisees got their
name?
From Kiddush to Havdalah, we treat Shabbat differently than we do the week: as a holy time, it is a day set apart. As in time, so in humanity: Israel is to be "a holy people and a kingdom of priests." It isn't a total dissociation. Shabbat completes the week and Israel is an or la’goyim, light unto the nations. Still, holy things differ in proper function from their profane counterparts. You might, for example, use an animal skin rolled on sticks for a doorstop, but not a Sefer Torah -- although the one is as much a feature of the world before us as is the other, but l'havdil, distinctly so. I am still trying to come to terms with R. Micha Berger's treatment
HERE, but I think he may mistake separation for total dissociation when he says that, if holiness is separation, "for I ...am holy" wouldn't make sense because a G-d holy in that sense wouldn't have created the world. But of course G-d is no less holy for being wholly other, and is no less holy or other for being at work in the world: sanctifying by commanding us, for example.
No, this isn't germane to the Daf, but you did ask for comment.
--DANIEL

 
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